The NHL never sleeps. Though the on-ice action may come to a halt from mid-June to mid-September (sending legions of poolies into serious withdrawal shakes), those who run the teams find their summers consumed with the draft, free agent frenzy, contract negotiations, prospect camps, research and development sessions and, this summer, CBA negotiations. There’s no such thing as downtime.
With the increasing popularity of keeper leagues, the same can now be said of fantasy leagues. Once an October-April pastime, most serious leagues now operate 365-days a year, thankfully giving us diehards an outlet for an obsession that never dissipates, even as the beach beckons.
Unfortunately, most online pool sites have failed to keep pace. Though some, like Fantrax, are starting to meet the needs of keeper leagues for year-round service, the majority of sites still shut down during the offseason, forcing commissioners to find creative ways to keep the league operational while waiting for their host to re-open for business in September.
Successful commissioners understand the need to keep rosters updated as trades go down. Salary cap leagues need to continually adjust their data throughout the summer as players are signed to new contracts. League activity is strengthened when managers have an ongoing communication outlet. There are rule changes to be discussed, voted on and implemented. All of these factors and more must be addressed as the long, hot summer months drag on.
As a commissioner, how do you keep things up and running? I’ve got three essential tools in my summer toolkit.
The Spreadsheet: Long the commissioner’s best friend, many of us have fond (or not so fond) memories of crunching goals and assists on a spreadsheet every week through the dark ages of hockey pools (ie. before the advent of the Internet). Thankfully, we no longer have to do that, but even in this new day, the spreadsheet is a useful fantasy tool. My league has a mid-August deadline for announcing protected rosters for next season, so our roster spreadsheet provides a master list of protected players, as well as a listing of dropped players who will go back into the draft. Spreadsheets are also useful for tracking farm teams and salary caps, depending on the intricacies of your league.
The Website: Our league website is an essential management tool, not just during the off-season but year-round. Because our host (Yahoo!) doesn’t have farm team capabilities, we use a separate website to track farm team rosters and other data that is unique to our league, such as player years of service (which we place limits on). It also gives us an ideal place to record league history, track draft picks, post league rules, write articles on league happenings and even create fictitious Twitter scandals featuring inebriated Dry Island escapees and naked pictures of Ryan Kesler celebrating with the championship trophy. Maintaining a website can be a lot of work, but chances are you’ve got someone in your league who has the skills to make it happen.
The Message Board: An online message board gives your managers a place to stay in touch throughout the summer. Here, rule changes can be debated, trade talks sparked and trash talk kindled. Many leagues have found a suitable home at Pro Boards, a free online forum with lots of great features. With enough creativity, Pro Boards can be adapted to fill many of the functions of a full website, if you don’t have the time or inclination to build your own site. Or if you want to keep things super-simple, start a thread in the Your League Chat section of the forums here on Dobber Hockey.
More and more fantasy sites are catching on to the growing popularity of keeper leagues. Hopefully, within a few years, the off-season dilemma will become a thing of the past. But until then, think outside the box to keep your league thriving until the chill is back in the air.
What are your strategies for keeping things running during the offseason?